A trip to Perch Hill

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Last week I got an email from Sarah Raven informing me of upcoming garden open days, one happened to be today so I decided to go along.

Sarah Raven is well known on the telly for stints on various gardening shows including guest appearances on Gardener’s World and the series that followed her family living in Sissinghurst a few years ago. She is also known for setting up a cutting flower garden at her previous home at Perch Hill, a farm house in Brightling, situated in the High Weald in Sussex. Her husband Adam Nichols is grandson of Vita Sackville west, who’s ancestral home was Knole in Kent, and later Sissinghurst. Adam writes mainly historical books now,  I have read some of his autobiographical titles, Perch Hill and The Sea Room which I both really enjoyed. Sarah also runs various classes, from horticultural to flower arranging to cookery at her Perch Hill home. She champions organic gardening and has highlighted the plight of bees that are in  decline possibly due to the use of agricultural pesticides in farming. Recently she has designed a standard symbol for plants labels that denote nectar rich plants which are suitable for bees to pollinate.

Today Sarah gave a tour of the cutting garden, giving advice on rotating the many different types of flowers she grows, and ideal times and conditions for planting different varieties. I am especially inspired by her unique planting style, the companion planting and juxtaposition of form, texture and colour is superb. Although there weren’t too many examples of this today as everything is so behind because of the cold spring. Sarah herself believes her garden is 5 weeks behind the usual flowering times, she even had to visit Covent Garden Market to buy a load of tulips in this morning as she didn’t have many in the garden!

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I have loosely followed Sarah’s progress at Perch Hill, so I can see she has come a long way since moving there. The cutting garden has been formally boxed in with established hawthorn hedging and little rooms have appeared off this central area, including a cottage kitchen garden and formal wildflower meadow.

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Narcissus in a grid in the cutting garden

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The Kitchen Garden

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The Wildflower Garden

There are also many beautiful areas around the main farmhouse. The garden immediately in front of the house is brick paved on many levels, with tiles edges borders housing species primulas and cloud shaped box balls.

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Sarah has a wonderful eye for form and structure and has created many magical areas to house unique combinations of plants. Every available space has been planted up with tulips, honesty, euphorbia and wallflowers. There are snakehead fritillaries, anemones, hellebores, many variaties of narcissus and tulips.

Just some of the many tulips

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I came away very inspired, and with a treat or two for me…some plug plants (cosmos purity and ammi majus) and a lovely bird feeder for my tree. It was a great morning and I would recommend going to have a look if you aren’t too far away.

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